Let’s face it: owning a car is great, but it’s also expensive. With rising gas prices and repair part costs, not everyone’s income can keep up with inflation. As a result, selling a car that no longer meets your needs or budget may be a practical option. But what if you don’t have the title on hand? Is selling the car still possible?
If you find yourself wondering if you can sell a car without the title but aren’t sure how to proceed, consider the following information and how to move forward with the sale.
What Is a Car Title?
A car’s certificate of title is the legal document that identifies who the owner is and has rights to the property. It is issued by the state where the vehicle is purchased. According to Kelly Blue Book (KBB), the title looks very similar to a birth certificate.
The information listed in the title can include the following:
- A seal of the issuing state
- The vehicle’s make, model, year, and color
- The owner’s name and address
- Vehicle purchase date/title issue date
- Odometer reading
- Signatures of the buyer, seller, and state representative
But what happens when this paper is lost or damaged? Maybe you never received it with your vehicle. Can you legally sell your car without this document? Well, the answer depends on why you don’t have the title in the first place.
Can You Legally Sell a Car Without a Title?
When an automobile is sold, a certificate of title is reissued to the new owner. However, there are several reasons why you might not possess one for your vehicle. For instance, your state might not require a title if the car is significantly older or is considered an antique. If this situation applies to you, contact your local vehicle registry (DMV) to see if they can locate the title or provide you with a bill of sale to sell the vehicle.
However, you will likely have to get a replacement to prove your legal right to sell in instances such as replacing a lost, stolen, or destroyed title. Although not every state considers it illegal to sell an untitled car, most do. Therefore, you will want to ensure your buyer that the vehicle wasn’t stolen and that they can register the vehicle and purchase auto insurance after completing the purchase.
How Do You Get a Copy of the Title?
The circumstances surrounding your vehicle ownership will largely influence the steps you take to obtain a title replacement. Still, getting a copy is possible. Let’s look at a few possible scenarios and what you can do to get a duplicate:
You’re still paying your car loan and don’t have the title.
Cars are expensive. So you may have had to take out a loan when you originally made the purchase. Because of this, your lender retains the certificate of title until the loan is paid in full. But suppose you decide to sell to a private buyer before you pay off the loan. In that case, working with your lender can help to streamline the process. Contact the company and inform them of your decision to sell. They can send the remainder of your loan payments to that individual. Once the loan is paid off, the lender will send the title to the buyer or their lender.
Your car is paid off, but the title is misplaced or damaged.
Sometimes important papers are lost or accidentally thrown away. In worst-case scenarios, natural disasters like floods or fires ruin them. Whatever the cause is for a missing title, your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) should be able to send you a replacement copy.
The actual process of filing a request for a duplicate certificate of title by owner varies by state. Be sure to read it thoroughly to understand what the state requires before signing and submitting the document. Doing so can help ensure you don’t delay the process. In general, you can anticipate taking the following steps:
- Confirm the issuing state for your lost title.
- Visit your state’s DMV website.
- Look for a link for individuals who want to apply for a duplicate certificate of title by the owner.
- Complete an online or paper application, depending on the issuing state.
- Get the application notarized if necessary.
- Include the fee payment and address it to the issuing state DMV.
- Include all required documents such as your driver’s license, current car registration, and the original lien release (this will come from the lienholder/bank) if applicable.
- Submit the form online or mail it directly to the address stated on the form.
After submitting the form, the DMV will likely mail you the replacement title within a few weeks if it’s available. You can then release ownership by signing the document and selling the car to your buyer.
What Does a Title Replacement Cost in Your State?
As noted, each state charges a title replacement fee. But the overall cost depends on the state where you apply. Some cost as little as $2 or $5. Others range between $50-$95. Let’s look at a few state examples:
- Texas – $2 (online) or $5.45 (in person)
- North Dakota – $5
- Arkansas – $10
- Michigan – $15
- Indiana – $15
- Pennsylvania – $58
- New Jersey – $60
Maximize Your Car’s Resale Value Before You Sell It
Whether you’re looking to sell your car now or in the future, taking care of your vehicle can add to its resale value. Start by following the recommended maintenance schedule for preventive services and investing in a transferable extended car warranty. With a reliable protection plan, you can gain peace of mind about future breakdowns and out-of-pocket repair costs. Review our top extended warranty providers and request your free quote to get started today.